Pet owners find rescuing cat not so easy

Posted: Wednesday, April 14, 2004

In a calculated move of desperation, Mickey leapt from the top of the spruce tree the cat had been stuck in for nearly a week to the tree's twin, a couple yards away.

The change of view didn't help.

The 4-month-old kitten still couldn't make its way down through the greenery.

No matter, 10 minutes later Chris Snyder rode a bucket lift 40 feet into the air and plucked his family's cat from the tree top.

Mickey's six-day ordeal began April 7, when he met the neighbor dog. The result was no surprise.

The dog chased the cat. The cat ran up the tree.

"He'd never been outside. This was his first adventure out," said Sarah Snyder, who received the cat as a Christmas gift from her husband.

The cat climbed more than halfway up the tree before it stopped.


Chris Snyder holds up his family's cat after rescuing it from the top of a tree. Airport Rentals donated the services of a bucket lift to reach the top of the 40-foot tree.

Photo by Mark Harrison

For two days the Snyders tried to coax the cat down with food and by calling its name, but the kitten clung to its perch.

They also tried climbing up to rescue the cat, but it had scurried too high.

"We've got a ladder that's 20 feet, but it wasn't even close," Snyder said.

On Friday, Sarah Snyder began phoning for help and soon discovered that real life is not like a Norman Rockwell painting.

She called the Kenai and Central Emergency Services fire departments, but was told that cat rescue didn't fall into their job descriptions rosy-cheeked firefighters would not be handing her kitten down to her from their shiny fire truck's polished ladder.

Snyder next discovered her home on Archie Drive off Kalifornsky Beach Road is out of animal control jurisdiction of both the cities of Kenai and Soldotna, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough offers no animal control services.

The SPCA couldn't help.

An animal rescue organization in Homer told her it only assists large animals like eagles, seals or horses that are injured.

The Snyders' veterinarian was sympathetic but didn't know who else to call.

As a last resort, Snyder called Alaska State Troopers.

Though she didn't expect the troopers to rescue her cat, she thought they might know what to do.

"(The man I spoke to) was awesome. He tried for two days to try to get someone to help us," Snyder said.

On Saturday, the Snyders tried to shake Mickey out of the tree into a blanket stretched taut by their two sons and friends. The commotion only scared the cat and started him climbing.

"When he started going higher, I was like, 'No, no, stop, stop!'" Snyder said.

The cat climbed about as high as it could go before stopping within a yard of the tree's pointy, narrow top.

To make matters worse, an eagle began circling overhead. For whatever reason, the bird decided against making lunch of the cat and flew off.

Mickey spent Easter Sunday at altitude, and the Snyders thought they may have to shoot their new cat to put it out of its misery, until a friend called Airport Rentals and the company agreed to donate the services of a Genie lift.

Mickey's first outdoor adventure ended Monday afternoon with a bowl of water and dish of cat food served in the the Snyders' kitchen.

Despite the length of the episode, the Snyders didn't need to worry, according to Brett Reid of the Kenai Animal Control Shelter.

"At the risk of hurting people's feelings, I can say (cats) do come down," Reid said. "It's not unusual for them to sit in a tree for a week."

Especially if the cat is young, inexperienced and was scared up the tree by a dog, as in Mickey's case, he said.

"The rule of thumb is no one has ever found a cat who's died from going up a tree," Reid said.

As for the notion that fire departments routinely rescue cats from trees, the image might be found in a Disney movie, but it just isn't accurate in real life, according to Gary Hale, Central Emergency Services fire marshal.

"It's good for motion pictures and maybe volunteer departments," he said.

The bottom line is that most fire departments don't have the staff and equipment to spare.

"We wouldn't want to tie up a piece of equipment and keep it from a real emergency," he said. "We figure the cat got up there, it'll get itself down."

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